On September 18, 1874, Pope Pius IX issued the Bull, In Futuram Rei Memoriam, establishing the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville with the Immaculate Conception Church chosen as the Cathedral. The Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville was a newly organized ecclesiastical jurisdiction with its own Bishop who was called a Vicar Apostolic. Father Dominic Manucy, a priest from the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama, was appointed the first Vicar Apostolic on September 18, 1874.
Bishop Manucy was transferred in 1888, and Father Claude C. Jaillet, the Vicar-General of the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville, served as administrator.
In 1890, Father Peter Verdaguer was appointed Bishop of the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville. Upon his death in October 26, 1911, the Bishops at the council of the Province of New Orleans voted to request the Holy See to elevate the Brownsville Vicariate to a diocese due to the obvious growth and development. On March 23, 1912, Pope Pius X issued the Bull, Sapienti Consilio, converting the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville into the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
Father Paul Joseph Nussbaum was selected to be the Bishop of the new Diocese of Corpus Christi. When Father Nussbaum was transferred in April of 1921, Father Emmanuel Boleslaus Ledvina was appointed Bishop of Corpus Christi. In June 14, 1941, Father Mariano S. Garriga was appointed Coadjutor Bishop, the first native Texan chosen for the Catholic episcopacy. Upon Bishop Ledvina’s death, he became Bishop of Corpus Christi in 1949. He died February 21, 1965.
On July 10, 1965, Pope Paul VI issued the Bull, Ad Perpetuam Rei Memorian, declaring the establishment of the Diocese of Brownsville by separating the counties of Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr from the territory of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, in the State of Texas. These counties are situated in the southernmost tip of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr Counties also border on the Rio Grande River, which divides the Diocese of Brownsville from the dioceses of Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. The area of the four counties is 4,296 square miles.
Bishop Adolph Marx, a native of Germany who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Corpus Christi, was appointed the first Bishop of Brownsville on July 6, 1965. He died suddenly on November 1, 1965, in Cologne, Germany.
Diocese of Brownsville
Established on July 10, 1965
Square Miles: 4,296
Compromises the Counties: Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy
Statistics as of December 31, 2020
|Total Catholic Population: 1,171,182|
|Total Population (4 Counties): 1,377,861|
|Auxiliary Bishops: 1|
|Retired Bishops: 1|
|Diocesan Priests: 85|
|Religious Priests: 23|
|Extern Priests (on loan from other dioceses): 6|
|Priest to Catholic Ratio in Diocese: 1:10,273|
|Permanent Deacons: 103|
|Religious Brothers: 12|
|Religious Sisters: 60|
|Infant Baptisms: 2,879|
|Minor Baptisms: 321|
|Adult Baptisms: 137|
|First Communions: 3,316|
|Marriages - Catholic: 687|
|Marriages - Interfaith: 40|
|Catholic High Schools - Private: 3|
|Total Students: 455|
|Catholic Elementary Schools - Parochial (Pre-K to 8th Grade): 6|
|Total Students: 897|
|Catholic Elementary Schools - Private (Pre-K to 8th Grade): 3|
|Total Students: 342|
|C.C.D. Students (Religious Education Prog.)|
|C.C.D. High School Students: 5,954|
|C.C.D. Elementary & Middle School Students: 15,188|
Father Humberto S. Medeiros, a native of the Portuguese Azores serving in the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts was appointed the second Bishop of Brownsville on April 14, 1966. On September 8, 1970, Bishop Medeiros was transferred to the Archdiocese of Boston.
Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick, a native of Canada, serving as Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida, was appointed the third Bishop of Brownsville on April 27, 1971. He retired on November 30, 1991.
Bishop Enrique San Pedro, S.J., a Cuban-born Jesuit, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville on August 13, 1991. He became the fourth Bishop of Brownsville on November 30, 1991 upon the retirement of Bishop Fitzpatrick. Bishop San Pedro died on July 17, 1994.
On May 23, 1995, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Raymundo J. Peña the Fifth Bishop of Brownsville. Bishop Peña, who had been ordained a priest by Bishop Mariano S. Garriga, was installed on August 6, 1995 at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan, Texas. He thus became the second native Texan to serve the Rio Grande Valley as Bishop.
Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Daniel Flores, 48, of the Archdiocese of Detroit, as the new bishop for the Diocese of Brownsville. He was installed at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan, Texas as the sixth bishop of the diocese on February 2nd, 2010.
The first seeds of the Catholic faith were planted in 1519 in the time of the Spanish Conquistadores. An expedition under the command of a Spanish captain named Alonso Alvarez de Pineda brought the first Catholics to the Gulf Coast Area.
The teachings, rituals and customs of the Catholic Church have been handed down continuously from generation to generation, fulfilling the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles and to us.
Today, the Diocese of Brownsville includes more than a million Catholics, who worship in 71 parishes and 44 missions.
The Catholic faith may be deeply rooted in the Valley’s history and culture, but its diocese is young. While the area was part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville from 1874 to 1912, the Diocese of Brownsville was established on July 10, 1965 by Pope Paul VI. The ninth diocese in Texas was formed by detaching four counties – Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr – from the Diocese of Corpus Christi.